panel-of-experts

Reduced Funding for Geriatrics Research Would Be A Risky Move

Without a substantial increase in federal funding for geriatrics education and research, there’s a greater risk in reducing a workforce that is essential to training health professionals on the needs of older adults, according to experts.

In an article for the Journal of the American Geriatric Society, experts from various fields looked at the impact of the Geriatrics Academic Career Awards program (GACA), which served as a vital resource for more than 200 geriatrics clinicians and educators before it was eliminated as part of a consolidation of several geriatrics training programs in 2015.

Results from the research team’s survey of GACA recipients point not only to a growing need for geriatrics skills but also to the importance of dedicated time and financial support to develop emerging geriatrics faculty for training a U.S. healthcare workforce with the skills and knowledge to optimally care for older adults:

  • The 220 GACA recipients have trained between 41,000 and 65,000 health professional colleagues since 1998.
  • Ninety-six percent of survey respondents cited GACA-supported opportunities for educational and academic development, professional development, and leadership development as being primary contributing factors to their career success.
  • More than 90 percent of respondents noted that the award improved their teaching, leadership, and collaborative skills. More than 80 percent of the respondents also were promoted during or after receiving GACA funding.
  • More than 80 percent of respondents reported leveraging the GACA to “protect” dedicated time for developing courses, workshops, publications, and other training activities that would not have been possible without GACA support. As one respondent observed: “My entire career was influenced positively by the GACA. I was given protected time to develop curricula, to network with other educators, to receive training, and to become a more effective educator.”
  • Respondents firmly believed that their GACA work enhanced care quality for older adults and caregivers across the U.S. More than 50 percent of the GACA awardees surveyed reported an improvement in their provider skills and education. Nearly a quarter of respondents also were confident their efforts tangibly improved clinical care, satisfaction with the health system, and health outcomes for older men and women.

Established in 1998, the federally funded GACA program has provided vital support for career development for more than 200 junior level clinician-educators in geriatrics. Due to Congressional cuts, the program was suspended in 2006, and restored in 2007 thanks to extensive advocacy by AGS and other organizations. As the new Congress and the Trump Administration consider budget prospects for 2018, geriatrics experts and stakeholder groups like the AGS continue to stress that expert training and enhanced skills in geriatrics for all healthcare professionals will be nothing short of essential to us all as we age. The AGS, in collaboration with other stakeholders, is advocating for increased funding for the GWEPs and for restoring the GACA program as a separately funded career development awards program administered by the Health Resources & Services Administration (HRSA).